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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Medals And Glory



Our kids grew up playing youth sports. Swimming and soccer, mostly, though each tried other sports along the way.

Wil tried track and cross country and was really good at both. He had that rare ability to not only go long distance but also to run with speed. He also tried basketball and wrestling. But for him, the only sport that took root was soccer.

As a youngster, Hannah did gymnastics and seemed a natural. She also tried field hockey for a year and was pretty good. I think her ability to run and her knowledge of soccer helped. She also played basketball and I thought she did well. But for her, swimming and soccer were her sports, but she had to give up swimming after a shoulder injury. As a young adult, she now goes to a kickboxing gym for conditioning.

Emily, like her sister, was into swimming and soccer. At some point in middle school, she made the decision to only play soccer and it has paid off since she plays for her collegiate team. But she also tried martial arts, softball and basketball.

And you can imagine the ribbons, medals and trophies that have accumulated over the years. When they weren’t thrown away- not by Kim or me, but by them- they collected dust and added to clutter. Of course they kept some of the more memorable ones.

I’m an avid Packer and football fan. While I coached basketball in high school and college, I was a terrible basketball player. My players would make fun of me, and rightfully so. The only sport I was half-way decent at was football. I liked the contact, but at five-foot-eight and being not terribly fast or quick, high school football for me was my Mount Everest. A lot of players better than I was. Way better.

At times I’m equal parts amused and frustrated at polls and rankings of athletes. ESPN has a Top 100 listing of football players. National polls of football teams and basketball teams usually get it wrong and teams bounce up and down like yo-yos.

We bestow on athletes Most Valuable, Comeback Player of the Year, Best Offensive Player, Best Defensive Player, and on and on. Medals and trophies, money and cars, all given out to the alleged best among the elite.

It’s frustrating to me, but also interesting to me. Weird, I guess.

Honestly, I prefer the stories of Packer players riding little kids’ bikes to and from the practice field, building both memories and relationships as they do. I prefer stories of athletes who at one time lived on the streets or out of a car, who survived and overcame gangs and drugs, to not only make a team but become beloved by fans and players. I prefer stories of athletes finishing college while playing the sport they loved because they have a vision of a future beyond the sport.

I prefer stories of athletes and teams adopting terminally ill kids, inviting them to practice and into the locker room. I prefer stories of athletes visiting sick children in hospitals or their homes in order to somehow, in some way, make a burden lighter.

I prefer stories of athletes . . . and others . . . giving of themselves quietly and out of the spotlight in order to touch the lives of others, in order to make a difference in a life.

I’ve always believed that Medals And Glory need to be given to athletes . . . and others . . . who make a positive difference in the lives of others. Let us give them a ranking and national acclaim.

Yet, I have a feeling they’d be embarrassed and would run from the spotlight faster than Usain Bolt in a 100 meter dash. Because for them, they give without the expectation of being recognized. They give without the expectation of an award or acclaim.

That’s why my heroes are folks like the elderly nun from Calcutta serving the poor or the former president who humbled himself and allowed a little boy to rub his head, or that same former president giving knuckle-bump a custodian. My heroes include a former president who, in his poor health, builds houses for Habitat for Humanity. Each of them Do, because they see a need. They Do, because it is the right thing to do. They Do, and perhaps, so should we. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. While we wait, I am busy having fun with my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                            

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                     

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis   

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis   

 Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy stands in the kitchen pointing a gun at his uncle. There are many reasons for him to pull the trigger. Mainly, he had started it all. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis   

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers. http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Roots



Growing up on the river, we had many trees along the water’s edge, along with a hedgerow. There were four or so willow trees that bordered our yard with our neighbor’s yard. I remember them being tall and round and no way were they climbable. No way!

Not only were their trunks tall and round, but their Roots, long and thick reached out both above and below the ground. Playing there, sometimes we’d trip and fall, but we’d get back up and keep on playing whatever game it was at the time.

I had read somewhere that Roots of trees have approximately the same reach below (or sometimes above) ground as a tree’s foliage. Judging by the width and towering height of those trees by the river, I would say their Roots were long and deep.

Zak Brown has a song titled, “Roots.” Not surprisingly, the song talks about growing up in a small town surrounded by family and friends and familiar things. Trucks and fried chicken. Kids running barefoot. Chores. A beer or two. A lot of songs like that in country music. Honestly, I don’t tire of them. Each a little different both in tune and perspective.

One lyric strikes a chord in me each time I hear it: “. . . I wouldn't change a thing; It made the man I am today . . .”

Kim, Emily and I just returned from a small eleven day vacation to Wisconsin, and I can honestly say it was all about Roots.

We visited with Kim’s sister, Brenda and her husband, Mark. We traveled to spend two nights with my brother, Jim and his wife, Laurie. This was especially important to me because Jim had open heart surgery and I don’t nearly get to spend enough time with him. He looked great. He had his normal wry humor and was his old funny and sarcastic self. I miss him.

We traveled to The Dells. Anyone from a tri-state area knows The Dells. A great place to buy Carmel Apples and other small gifts and build upon memories. We visited the college Kim and I graduated from and found that it got bigger. Neither of us recognized some of the buildings.

Next stop, the cottage in Northern Wisconsin. It, too, had changed. It was always one of our favorite places to spend time. A bonfire and conversation filled with laughter and reminiscence. Rides in the boat and the ATV. It was a place our son, Wil, enjoyed, which was why we spent the 11th and 12th there.

From there, we spent two nights with Kim’s parents, who I am as close to as if they were my own. We visited one of my other brothers, Jack and his wife. A nice afternoon and dinner with them. And on our way to spend our final day and evening with dear friends, we stopped by the gravesite of my mom and dad. Buried side by side. A fairly unremarkable stone for each. Kind of plain, really. The way they had wanted it.

And as always, time ran out and we had to come back home. Yet, we still have our memories and our Roots have been revisited and renewed. Strengthened, somehow, even in some small way.
And I can hear Zak singing in the background as I write this, “. . . I wouldn't change a thing:
It made the man I am today . . .” Perhaps your Roots do the same for you. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. While we wait, I am busy having fun with my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                           

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                    

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis  

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis  

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy stands in the kitchen pointing a gun at his uncle. There are many reasons for him to pull the trigger. Mainly, he had started it all. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis  

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year old boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers. http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Saturday, July 8, 2017

It's For Wil



On July 12 it will be three years since our son, Wil, was shot and killed as he innocently walked down a street in Chicago. I’m not going to rehash it all. If you are curious and want to know the situation and circumstances, I’ve written several posts: “Justice Weeps” and “Our Own Terrible Horrible Day” are the two most recent.

As I’ve written in previous posts, my family and I don’t want pity. We recognize July 12 in our own way, quietly and without much fanfare. It’s the way Wil would have wanted it.

But I do have a favor to ask . . .

Wil was a spontaneous guy. He was fun-loving and good-hearted. Certainly he made his mistakes along the way, just like each of us. We found out at the visitation and at his service how he affected others’ lives in a positive way.

So here is what I would like you to do . . .

It is simple, really. On July 12, I ask you to do some act of random kindness for someone. The person can be known or unknown to you. For examples: while in a line at a fast food restaurant, you could pay for the meal for the guy behind you. When asked why, simply say, “It’s For Wil.” You can add however much of his story as you like or nothing at all. Truly up to you.

Buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks for someone. Buy a donut at Dunkin Donuts for someone. Buy a bouquet of flowers and hand them out one by one to random people or give someone the whole bunch. Whip up a batch of brownies for a neighbor. Text a friend who hasn’t heard from you in a while or send someone an email who hasn’t heard from you. And please, each time, simply say, “It’s For Wil.”

Or not. Don’t have to say anything at all. But do something, some act of random kindness on behalf of Wil.

There are folks who read this column from the USA, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and India along with other countries in the world. This column is read by approximately 120 people a day, sometimes more and sometimes less. Can you imagine what might happen if all of you and all of those who read Simple Thoughts do something kind for someone randomly on July 12? Can you imagine what the outpouring of the gift of love and kindness might do for all those lives we might touch?

And if you care to, stick a note in the comment section of the post. Give me your first name and your city and country and let me know what you did. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you.

May your gift of kindness touch a life in a positive way. May your gift of kindness touch your life in a positive way. And on behalf of my family, I thank you for this consideration. For Wil. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! God Bless!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                          

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                   

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him? http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis